The pst operon of enteropathogenic Escherichia coli enhances bacterial adherence to epithelial cells

  • Ferreira G
  • Spira B
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Abstract

Enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC) adheres in vivo and in vitro to epithelial cells. Two main adhesins, the bundle-forming pilus and intimin, encoded by the bfp operon and eae, respectively, are responsible for the localized and the intimate adherence phenotypes. Deletion of the pst operon of EPEC abolishes the transport of inorganic phosphate through the phosphate-specific transport system and causes the constitutive expression of the PHO regulon genes. In the absence of pst there is a decrease in the expression of the main EPEC adhesins and a reduction in bacterial adherence to epithelial cells in vitro. This effect is not related to PHO constitutivity, because a Deltapst phoB double mutant that is defective in the transcription of the PHO genes also displayed low levels of adherence and expression of adhesins. Likewise, a PHO-constitutive phoR mutation did not affect bacterial adherence. The expression of the per operon, which encodes the bfp and ler regulators PerA and PerC, is also negatively affected by the pst deletion. Overall, the data presented here demonstrate that the pst operon of EPEC plays a positive role in the bacterial adherence mechanism by increasing the expression of perA and perC and consequently the transcription of bfp and eae.

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